At first it was almost fun.
“The Golden Gate Bridge now makes music!” one tweet exclaimed.
“The bridge sings crazy songs now, it’s so trippy,” said another.
But the new “extremely loud humming noise” emanating from the Golden Gate Bridge, which can be heard across San Francisco and Marin County on windy days, is now making residents mad, and steps are being explored to silence it.
The phenomenon was first noticed around June 5, and identified as being created by fast northwesterly winds hitting newly installed sidewalk railings.
Tweets with videos capturing the eerie humming all the way from San Francisco’s Land’s End to the Marin Headlands went viral as the most famous bridge in the world found its voice.
But like all viral trends, folks got over it, fast.
The Marin Independent Journal reported that during a bridge board meeting last week, one resident described the noise as “screeching that sounded like torture” and complained that it has caused physiological distress.
“We had no idea that this would happen,” bridge chief engineer Ewa Bauer-Furbush said at the meeting.
However, this comes at odds with what Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz of the Golden Gate Bridge District told KQED earlier this month:
“As part of the design process, the District did extensive studies on the impacts of the project, including wind tunnel testing of a scale model of the Golden Gate Bridge under high winds.” Those tests showed that the bridge “would begin to hum” when air passed through it more freely. “The new musical tones coming from the bridge are a known and inevitable phenomenon.” Cosulich-Schwartz added.
After receiving dozens of complaints, the Golden Gate Bridge District announced that it will be studying the noise in the hope of finding a way to muffle it.
The district has reportedly spoken with an expert consultant on plans to pin down the cause of the noise and develop changes to potentially reduce its volume. Bauer-Furbush said they’ll be recording the sound to create a baseline record of when and under what conditions the sound occurs.
The new railings, which are currently 75% complete, are part of a retrofit that has been a long time coming. The new design is needed as part of the installation of the bridge’s forthcoming suicide barrier.
In 2010 an environmental impact report on the retrofit concluded that the new railings would not create a substantial increase in ambient noise. Bauer-Furbush said multiple tests on a 1:20 scale model of the new design were carried out, but admitted that the model was made of aluminum and plastic, not steel like the real thing.
A timeline on the study and any potential fixes to the problem is unsure. On gusty days residents on both sides of the Golden Gate can likely expect to enjoy and/or suffer the phenomenon for a while yet.
See the tweet below to hear the singing/torturous screeching in all its glory. Warning: sound low.
— Mark Krueger (@markkrueg) June 6, 2020
Andrew Chamings is an editor at SFGATE. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @AndrewChamings
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